By Trevor Pacelli
I have just finished my first semester here at Arizona State University, and while I have faced difficulties, challenges and feelings of loneliness, lots of great things have happened to me. Most of the things I faced were internal, others came on me unexpectedly. For instance, I've found a wonderful church to get plugged into and even went up to Prescott for a weekend with the college ministry. I got published in The State Press newspaper, I spoke at an event about my book and experiences with autism, and I got to spend time with several of my family members. The whole reason I picked this school in the first place is because it was so close to a lot of my family members (including my sister) and I wanted to get better connected with them. So far, it is going very well, if not exactly as I planned.
Forrest Gump has said, "Life is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get," and for me that could never be truer. When I started here in August, I had no idea what kind of church I was going to find or what things I was going to get involved in or what I was going to learn from my classes. But take a look at what Forrest Gump went through in the 1994 feature film. Forrest admits not being a smart man, and having braces on his legs as a child. He had a rough time growing up. Having autism, I've had difficulties too, where my communication skills prevented me from forming good friendships, and I too got bullied. But Forrest Gump didn't let his braces or intelligence get in the way of what he could do, he just kept running. Eventually, he became things that he probably never thought he could become: a college football star, a Vietnam war hero, a ping pong champion, and a billionaire who owned a shrimp company. And in addition to that, he helped inspire many stars in the material that made them famous, such as John Lennon. The best part out of all of this? He never intended to do any of it--it all just came naturally to him.
There were times in my life where things came to me that I didn't plan to do, such as when I was working at SAMBICA Bible camp. My sister asked me if I wanted to work for the camp in the first place, and my original plan at the camp was to just volunteer for maintenance for three weeks. But then my supervisor was so impressed by my work that he asked me if I wanted to start working in the kitchen until the end of camp, where I would be paid. Of course, I took the offer, and my supervisor in the kitchen was also very impressed by my work. Then the time came around where I had to look for another job. I was applying all over to different business, none of which hired me. Then my Mom suggested I apply for our church's maintenance crew. I got the job, and a couple of months into it, my supervisor asked me if I wanted to start handling security, where I would be locking up the building after work hours--a big responsibility. I didn't think any of this was going to happen to me in the beginning, but it did. And I will admit, all of those events have really helped me to become familiar with the work force and to present myself as a dependable, manageable worker.
Then there's my past semester here at ASU. I already knew coming here that I was going to spend time with the family, but what I didn't know was that I was actually going to appear on the cover of The State Press newspaper, or that I was going to speak publicly in front of fifty students and faculty, or that I was actually going to see the Lion King musical at only $43.00, or that I decided not to go into directing after all and instead pursue screenwriting. Then there are the courses I've taken. I've learned about how a movie is made, from the producer obtaining the screenplay to the distribution of the finished work, and I've learned about the periods of Hollywood film history. I've had some great professors and some not-so-great professors, but I've still gained an overall better understanding of how the Hollywood industry works and what the business is really like.
So if you or someone you know has autism or Asperger's, and you're worried about the kind of future you're going to be living, just remember Forrest Gump. He was the most unlikely person in the world to become rich and famous while saving lives in the army, and yet he did all that and much more. He inspired people and gave them hope just by being who he was and living by his instinct. So many people today try to appear successful or copy the lifestyle of someone who is, and they attempt to set up their lives so they'll become rich and famous, but due to poor planning, they end up living in a cardboard box on the street eating food out of a trash can. But if people were to just be themselves, accept what life offers them, and understand that they are not in complete control of their lives, then they too can live a life like Forrest Gump. That is what I've been doing. I don't have any idea what I'm going to be doing six months from now or even ten years from now, but I know that if I do what life calls me to do, then it's for my own benefit. So now, I will be applying for any internship I can lay my hands on, and whoever accepts me first I'll take it. It's true that I never know what I'm gonna get, but if it's related to chocolate, it's going to be good.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.